Finding New Zealand’s Best Weather

Aah weather, everyone’s favourite topic when conversation runs dry, it’s a universal thing. We lived in the UK for just over ten years and for the most part, conversations about weather involved varying shades of grey and degrees of wetness. Here in New Zealand we’ve become accustomed to more interesting weather conversations. Not surprising given that it can go from full sun to rain and back to sun in a matter of minutes at pretty much any time of the year.

New Zealand has an extremely varied climate from north to south and east to west and as a visitor, it pays to know what to expect as you travel around the country. But one of the most common questions we see when it comes to weather is, where is the best weather in New Zealand? 

Now if you’re going to talk about the best of anything, it’s probably a good idea to first define what you mean by best. While it’s easy to claim that a certain place has the best weather based on a single criterion, like for example, having the most sunshine hours in a particular year, we think it’s a little more complicated than that.

With that in mind, we would say that the place with the best weather, certainly from a travel perspective, has:

  • the highest sunshine hours
  • the lowest rainfall
  • the highest temperatures with,
  • the lowest relative humidity (unless you like frizzy hair)

You may not agree with us but, unless someone suggests a better alternative, that’s what we’re going with. So, assuming you’re willing to accept our definition, thanks to NIWA’s (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) climate data and a bit of spreadsheet magic, the answer is…

Napier

Located in the Hawke’s Bay region on the east coast of the North Island, the city in New Zealand with the best weather is Napier. Sheltered from the west by mountain ranges and moderated from the east by the Pacific Ocean, Napier’s climate is generally warm, dry and Mediterranean-like. While Napier can’t boast about having as much sunlight hours as Nelson or as little rain as Christchurch, in our analysis it scored high enough across the board to take out the top spot. You can find out more about the region in our Hawke’s Bay Guide.

Te Mata Peak

The runners-up

While there can be only one winner, in this race there are no losers as each of these cities and towns has its own particular charm and to be honest, we’ve visited them all and they all have stunning summer weather. Plus there’s the fact that if you’re wearing the right clothes, the weather really doesn’t matter. So without further ado, here are our nine runners-up in order from second best to… not so best.

If you’re a kiwi reading this and your hometown didn’t make the top 10, we apologise but there was only so much spreadsheet analysis our brains could handle.

Best weather regions

For our analysis, we looked at NIWA data for a number of towns and cities, and while we had no idea which would come in at number one, before we started crunching the numbers, we had a fairly good idea of the places that would most likely feature in the top five. This was thanks to NIWA’s handy weather maps.

NIWA New Zealand median annual temperature map
NIWA New Zealand median annual rainfall map
NIWA New Zealand median annual sunshine map

Looking at NIWA’s maps, particularly the one showing median annual sunshine hours, there are two parts of New Zealand that immediately stand out as having the best weather generally. They are:

  • The eastern coastal areas of the North Island from Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty region around to Gisborne in the Tairawhiti region and further south to Napier in the Hawke’s Bay region
  • The coastal areas around the top of the South Island which includes Nelson in the Nelson Tasman region and Blenheim in the Marlborough region

After analysing the data (the same data that NIWA used to create the above maps by the way), the results confirmed what we suspected all along which is that if you live in any of these coastal towns, you’ve hit the jackpot weatherwise. But then you probably already knew that.

Weather by the numbers

Now for the possibly boring stuff – feel free to skip this section unless you’re interested to know exactly what data we analysed and how.

For our analysis we used NIWA weather data from 1981 to 2010. This data provided mean monthly and annual values for around 30 locations with at least 5 complete years of data and included values for:

  • total sunshine hours
  • rainfall
  • air temperature
  • relative humidity

We then ranked each location against the four criteria and averaged the individual rankings to get to an overall ranking score. We did this for both mean annual values as well as a more detailed analysis of the all important summer months, December to February. Interestingly, there wasn’t a significant difference in rankings in the top 5 between annual and summer values.

Now we know what some of you might be thinking, a lot has happened since 2010, and yes, you would be right. For example, the highest recorded annual sunshine hours was in Nelson in 2019. But a single data point doesn’t make for a very good analysis which is why we chose to use median data, of which, NIWA’s 1981 to 2010 dataset was certainly the most complete that we could get our hands on. With the effects of climate change since 2010, things have not doubt changed and will continue to change, but until new longterm data is available, Napier can bask in glory… and sunshine.

So there you have it, an interesting exercise that may seem pointless to some, but it may help to settle a few friendly disagreements.